Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nom Nom Nom Like A Caveman

I was really focused on making Catlyn something creative & tasty while staying true to her Paleo Diet.  I headed out to Reading Terminal Market nice and early - before the place gets over run with tourists.  I picked up a nice big chicken breast & turkey bacon at Godshall's Poultry and then headed over to Iovine Brother's to check out the fresh produce.  I found some beautiful Rainbow Swiss Chard & Red Peppers.  I stopped off at the Fair Food Farmstand for an apple to snack on on the walk home and saw something I had never seen offered, much less knew were locally produced - Emu Eggs.  Apparently they are only available twice a year.  I may have to come up with something to do with one of those before they are gone.

I relaxed a bit, had lunch, & started prepping the veggies, still not exactly sure what I was going to make.  After rinsing the chard well, I prepped it in the way I learned at a knife skills class I took at Foster's - remove the green leaves by pinching at the base and running my fingers up along the stalk.  Then I sliced up the colorful stalks on the bias and rolled up the greens to give it a quick easy chiffonade (just roll up any flat leaves piled on top of each other then slice pieces off the roll from one end to another).  Next I cut and cleaned the peppers, diced some shallots (which made my nose & eyes run uncontrollably) & ran some almonds thru the food processor till they were a meal consistency.

In to a pan with a little olive oil went some diced turkey bacon.  It gave off a savory smoky smell and almost no fat what-so-ever.  Next the shallots hit the pan with the chard stalks.  After they got soft in went the greens & a touch of water to make steam.  The lid went on and I let the greens steam down while I toasted the almond meal in a dry pan - keep stirring or shaking to keep it from burning.  I took the lid off the greens and in went the almond meal a bit at a time till it bulked it up the way I wanted.  I let it cook thru a bit and turned the burner off with the lid on to cool down.

Next task was roasting the Red Peppers for pesto.  This pesto flavorful and simple (and I have to acknowledge that Harry is the one that use to always make this for Shabbat dinners), but actually roasting the peppers is quite a task with my wee electric oven.  Because there is a thermostat in the oven that makes it kick off when it reaches a certain temperature, even when on broil, I have to leave the door to the oven open to keep the coils going when broiling.  Not only that, but also sit in front of the hot open oven fanning it to keep the thermostat from registering that the oven is "hot enough".  I need to find a better method, but it works and the taste of roasted peppers makes it worth every sweaty minute.  After roasting they go in to a bag to cool off and let the steam go to work.

At this point I realized I was so focused on making something creative with the main dish, I completely forgot about the side dish.  D'OH!  Before deboneing the chicken breast, I grabbed a bag of spinach out of the freezer and hoped it would saute nicely with olive oil and garlic after thawing.  I turned my attention to the chicken and carefully deboned the chicken breast giving me two nice thick breasts for our dinner and some nice chicken tenders for another day.  This is another skill I learned in the Knife Skills class at Foster's - Thanks Chef Corbin!  I do get a charge out of being able to go to the butcher and get whole chickens or whole breasts for a fraction of the cost of the boneless pieces and do it all myself.

The peppers came out of the bag cooled, soft, and juicy.  It was easy to scrape the skin off by running the back of the knife over the charred skin.  I tossed the skinned roasted peppers in the container that came with my Cuisinart Immersion Blender with a drizzle of olive oil.  In a few whirls of the blade and I had a pink, creamy, & flavorful Red Pepper Pesto ready to go.

I sliced a pocket into each chicken breast and got ready to stuff them with the cooled Swiss Chard and Almond meal stuffing.  With a little force I was able to fit all the filling into the chicken.  The stuffed chicken went into the baking dish and covered with Red Pepper Pesto.  While that was cooking away, I turned my overdue attention to the sidedish of sauteed spinach.  Even with plenty of olive oil and garlic, the frozen spinach just couldn't be saved.  The chicken would have to do.

Catlyn arrived and climbed the 6 flights to my apartment (damn the broken elevator!) with a bottle of Smoking Loon in hand... plus some homemade cookies for me.  I opened the bottle and we enjoyed a predinner glass of wine.  The chicken came out smelling and looking yummy (I, of course, forgot to take a photo of the completed meal - D'OH).  We sat back and tucked into our chicken.  It stayed moist and the stuffing was flavorful and filling.  The Red Pepper Pesto gave it just a touch of sweetness.

We enjoyed the wine and chicken while watching the Winter Olympics and making snarky comments (mind you the 6 flights I have to walk until they fix my elevator quickly wind me).  After dinner and relaxing, we checked out the bar at the newly opened Amis.  It's a nice place with an interesting rustic menu.  We enjoyed a couple of well crafted drinks from a friendly bartender.  We discussed cooking and found out she was a photographer looking to do more food photos.  We exchanged information and maybe you'll all be treated to some better photographs soon.  I am sure we'll be headed back there soon to sample some of their foods.  It was a good night with a good friend... who could ask for more.

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